Paris Adrift (Solaris), by E.J. Swift is an effervescent blend of revisionist history, fantasy and science fiction. We’re introduced to a mad spirit, what’s left of the first time traveler from hundreds of years ago. She and a mysterious team of travelers have one shot to stop the world from ending in 2070. They work to manipulate a young woman named Hallie in the year 2017, after she has fled her home in Britain and is looking for a job in Paris. A mysterious man tells her about a job at a bar called Millie’s, and soon Hallie is swept into a world of cheeky misfit bohemians. She stumbles across a time rip in the cellar of the bar, and soon she is embroiled in a plot to save the future — and later, her present. Hallie’s newfound family and bar life is utterly charming, and it’s this that holds your attention even as the plot meanders. The stakes — world-destroying as they may be — never feel higher than whether Hallie will make it through a shift at Millie’s.
Vandana Singh’s poetic collection Ambiguity Machines: And Other Stories (Small Beer) is as ambitious and cerebral as the various experiments her scientist characters embark on. The stories are full of the musings of these scientist-philosophers as they navigate relationships, grief and the space-time continuum — fitting, as Singh herself is a physicist. “A Handful of Rice,” told in the cadence of a biblical tale, explores the friendship of two men after one becomes a powerful king. “Are You Sannata 3159?” is like the darkest “Black Mirror” plot, about a young boy who follows his hunch that the new slaughterhouse that has brought jobs and food into town is more than it seems. “Ruminations of an Alien Tongue” is a trippy look at how people are connected across time and universes, how they remain familiar even as they change. There’s a wonderful discordance between the cool, reflective quality of Singh’s prose and the colorful imagery and powerful longing in her narratives. Singh’s final novella — exclusive to this collection — has no finality to it. It’s a new beginning.
Everdeen Mason reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
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